Monday, 21 October 2019



I can remember getting my first allotment up at Stirling Park on the Law Hill in early 1960s. I had a plot of land to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers and it also had a greenhouse for a few tomatoes. As a young apprentice gardener I was very eager to
Anna picking chokeberries
learn all about my trade. The plot had a row of blackcurrants which I knew were full of vitamin C so they just had to be good for you. However it was a long time after before the health benefits of fruit began to sink in as I experimented with a whole variety of fruit bushes and sought information on
Chokeberry jam
cultivation and use on the internet. All of a sudden the world becomes a small place as the internet opens up and you can reach all for information from around the world. In my early days it was the blueberry that got all the attention, and I can remember picking a range of new varieties on trial at the Scottish Crops Research Institute (now James Hutton) in the mid sixties. They are still grown up at Mylnefield but a lot of research is going into blackcurrants for commercial use. Two other black fruits grown there were the saskatoons and chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa Viking) but they never received much attention as no-one was growing them and after many years they got grubbed out. I took an interest in saskatoons after a trip
Aronia wine fermenting
to Canada in 2004 where they are very popular and with a huge demand for them as fresh and processed fruit. When I found out that the Saskatoon was the fruiting form of the Amelanchier which is grown all over UK as an ornamental shrub, I knew they would be easy to grow here, so I started growing them about fifteen years ago.
Their popularity was helped by the fashionable custom of looking for a superfood with more health giving qualities than normal. The blueberry was very popular and had high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, but the Saskatoon levels were even higher giving it superfood status. Its demand in Canada and the USA far exceeds its production, but in UK it has yet to find much
Aronias washed and dried
attention, apart from one grower in Pershore growing it as an additive in gin which at present is very much in fashion. A lot of research in USA and Canada has been given to the health benefits of these black fruits and while checking them out I came across the chokeberry which had been identified as the next superfood as it had more antioxidants and vitamin C than any other fruit. I had grown them before as a shrub with great autumn colour but never realised the fruit was edible, but after doing a bit more research I had to find and grow my own chokeberries. It seems that black coloured fruits have more health benefits than other fruit so I now add black grapes, blueberries and blackberries to my fruit collection.
The dark skins are a rich source of vitamin C and anthocyanins, an antioxidant which may help prevent heart
Brant grapes
disease, strokes, cancer, cataracts and other chronic illnesses associated with ageing. However the fruit is a bit astringent when eaten fresh so it is usually processed and added to numerous recipes.
During my research as well as Anna’s looking for chokeberry cooking recipes we came across the Midwest Aronia Association based in Iowa which has a high concentration of Aronia growers. Their website, and videos were a real treat and very informative. So now Anna after acquiring the Aronia Berry Recipe book regularly creates her Aronia crumble bars, makes jam with a mix of aronia, apple and raspberry. It also goes into cakes, compote and sauces, and I use just over ten pounds for three demijohns of a fantastic wine with great health giving properties. Now that canna be bad, and should help to keep me in good form for many more years.
Lifting gladioli corms

Wee jobs to do this week

Lift and dry off gladioli, tuberous begonias and dahlias before frosty nights arrive as these plants are not hardy, though with recent mild winters I have seen both gladioli and dahlias left outside come through the winter unscathed. However I would not risk it just in case The Beast from the East pays us another visit. They can be left outside on sunny days to dry off, but then clean them up and store inside in cool but frost free building. Make sure you tie a label on the Dahlia stems so they don’t get mixed up.


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